Brooke Shields, Drew Barrymore and Gwenyth Paltrow have all been very open about their struggle with Postpartum Depression. The Mayo Clinic describes the illness as a form of depression triggered by the birth of your child. This may result in sadness, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and even anger.
When asked about her experience with Postpartum Depression, Brooke Shields said, “The very damaging, frightening part of postpartum is the lack of perspective and the lack of priority and understanding of what is really important.” This very real struggle affects your relationships with your spouse, friends and children. It’s a psychologically damaging disease and it’s necessary to seek help.
There are mounds of support groups, research, and articles offering relief to women in suffering. The resources to grow from PPD are at the fingertips of every mother; it’s only a matter of mentally and emotionally deciding when to seek help.
However, what happens when a father suffers from PPD? This may seem far-fetched for some to understand. It’s the women who carries the child for 9 months, it’s the women who birth the child, it’s the women who breastfeed and become the ultimate caregiver of newborns. Those facts alone may challenge your belief that a man, too, can suffer from PPD.
Paternal Postnatal Depression is the legal term for men that experience mental health problems after the birth of their child. According to Dr. Christina Hibberi, Psy.D, 14% of dads in America have been diagnosed with PPND. Go ahead and double that percentage to account for the men who haven’t spoken up about their issues.
Dads may feel disconnected to their newborn child. Their depression, on the outside, looks like a lack of care or interest in the newborn child. Take a closer look, dad may feel like a bit of an outsider. The ultimate bond between mother and child is (most of the time) effortless. Whereas a percentage of dads have to formulate a bond, as it does not come as naturally to them. This can be a struggle; it can cause anger, frustration and fear.
Men also need their bros. Much like women, men love to socialize. A lack of socialization is a major contributor to sadness and desolation. Let’s face it; days with children can be a bit mundane and trite. Wake up, cry, eat, sleep, hit repeat. And with both mom and dad suffering from exhaustion, the adult interaction isn’t what it used to be.
So, what does PPND look like? Men display their feelings much differently than women. This is no secret. Men tend to become irritable with those around him and he may lash out unexpectedly towards his loved ones. Impulsivity is a key player for men; he may spend copious amounts of money on “things” to hide his undesirable feelings. Dad may become violent, turn to alcohol or even gain weight due to his anxiety. He may find a happier place at work and have a strong desire to spend more time in that adult centered setting.
First and foremost dads, seek out a counselor for help. Talking out your feelings and learning coping techniques is vital for recovery. On the small scale, daily exercise like yoga and meditation are natural stress-relievers. Feeling lonely? Invite some buddies over. I know, I know, your house is loud and crazy and a bit disorderly, but having an adult friend over, one who isn’t related to your child, can be just as good as medicine. They will offer up adult friendly conversations, take your mind off the day-to-day and may even hold that screaming little rug-rat of yours, giving you a much needed break.
You see, Postpartum Depression isn’t a one-size fits all illness. It isn’t singled out for mothers only. It’s a very serious disease that can affect both parents in a scary and real way. Keep an open line of communication between you and your spouse to check in regularly with one another’s feelings. And please, don’t forget to kiss, hug and even go to boogey town as often as possible. Happiness at home begins with the husband and wife, never forget that and never put that on the back burner. Your kids will thank you.